The game of musical chairs continues with K L Rahul’s batting position in the ODIs, and this time it’s not by design or any whimsical move by the team management.
The right-hander was slowly but surely settling in at No 4, but an injury to Shikhar Dhawan will put him back to No 1 position where he has batted all his career, from his school team to club to various State teams. Ideally, Rahul should be rejoicing at his opportunity to bat at his favoured position, but he finds himself in a peculiar situation now. There is also every chance him being unfairly judged in comparison to Dhawan, and that pressure is never a good feeling to have.
While confirming Rahul's move up the order, Indian team’s assistant coach Sanjay Bangar explained the advantages of batting at different spots.
“The advantages of playing in various situations is that you understand the game a lot better,” said Bangar when asked about Rahul’s challenges in this scenario. “So, if you're batting in the middle order and if you're a top-order (batsman) and you get to bat in the middle order, then you get to know the challenges faced by the middle order. So, if a player is able to do that -- and if you look across the history of the game, players have been very versatile,” he offered.
Bangar, more than anyone else, knows it’s easier said than done. Moving positions so frequently can be unfair on any player. There are technical adjustments to be made, approach to be altered and temperament to be changed. While you expect professionals to be ready for such eventualities at this level, in a country where patience comes at a premium, critics will be baying for your blood if you fall short of expectations.
Bangar advised Rahul to take inspiration from his illustrious Karnataka mate Rahul Dravid for the sake of team’s cause. “If you can take his namesake Rahul Dravid back (in those days) at various positions, actually, it helped the team big time. It also helps that usually you understand the game a lot better. If you're batting in the middle order and suddenly you go and bat in the top order, then you know how challenging it can be, wherein you need to negotiate two new balls, but you also understand that there are all these boundary opportunities.
“There are a lot of big gaps out there in the field if you're in the top order but batting in the middle order, you suddenly understand that the balls which you would have hit for four in the first 10 or 12 overs, you only can get a single. So, it's a mental adjustment, and any player who is able to do that requires a lot of skill, but ultimately it will enhance the position that he will bat in, and it will help the team's cause big time,” he offered.
While he is a natural opener, doing this job in these conditions isn’t easy. Surviving that initial testing period is crucial, and while he has the game conquer the vagaries of the pitch and the weather, he needs the backing of the team management. He needs to be given a decent run to prove his worth in that position.